12/03/2011 04:35 EST | Updated 02/02/2012 05:12 EST

B.C. First Nations community split over support for Northern Gateway pipeline

VANCOUVER - Members of a British Columbia First Nation where hereditary chiefs have voiced support for the Northern Gateway pipeline appear split over the controversial project.

On Friday, a group of hereditary chiefs from the Gitxsan in northwestern B.C. announced they had accepted Enbridge Inc.'s (TSX:ENB) offer of an equity stake in the $5.5-billion project.

But shortly after the announcement, a group claiming to represent other hereditary chiefs and four Gitxsan bands issued a news release denouncing the agreement.

The news release comes from the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Gitxsan Treaty Society and the B.C. Treaty Commission over complaints about ongoing treaty negotiations with the federal and provincial governments.

The release says members of the Gitxsan nation weren't consulted about the Northern Gateway agreement, and says it was wrong to sign a deal before the environmental impact assessment process is finished.

A federal review panel is preparing to hold public hearings into the 1,200-kilometre Northern Gateway pipeline early in the new year.